>Remembering

>One of the three basic human things from which our writing springs, according to poet, author and professor of literature, Beth Ann Fennelly, is REMEMBERING. During the Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop at Ole Miss last weekend (was it just last weekend?—so much has happened this week!) she was teaching us about the source of our creativity, when she introduced us to these three wells and encouraged us to return to them again and again. The memory I wrote during the workshop was about my mother. But today I’m remembering something else. I’m remembering my wedding day and my honeymoon. Because yesterday was our thirty-eighth anniversary!

And because I’m writing the first draft of Chapter 5 of my memoir: “The Flower Child Bride.”

God, we were young. I was barely nineteen, and my husband was twenty-one. My eight bridesmaids ranged in age from 15 to 18. (And they wore dotted swiss bell-bottom pants suits… it was 1970, remember?)

But today I’m remembering our honeymoon dinner at Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi, Mississippi…

I thought about it last night, during our anniversary dinner at Roustica, a restaurant just around the corner from our house here in midtown Memphis.

We had a table by the window, so we could watch the sky outside go from sun-lit clouds to dusky blue-grey to deep blue as the evening fell. We toasted with champagne, indulged in (really good) Alaskan halibut and scallops, and finished the meal off with (for me) Crème Brule with a true Southern twist—sorghum! (Just for the record, I prefer the original flavor better, but it was fun trying something new.)

[Oh—and for those fashion-conscious gals who are paying attention, that’s another modal dress from New Orleans… a black one just like the purple one I fell in love with in that cute little boutique in the Quarter. That fabric is addictive!]

And if you’ve never been to Roustica, one of the delights is the interior decor, much of which was hand-painted by local artists. For many years it was “Marena’s” …. this was our first time to try it since it came under new ownership. Hats off to Chef Kevin!

Okay, cut to earlier in the day now, when I arrived home from Jackson to these gorgeous roses on my kitchen table. The vase was a gift from our dear departed friend, Urania, about two years ago. Her husband of 59 years, Andy, had given it to her on their first anniversary, and had faithfully filled it with roses for 59 years. When she gave it to us, she “encouraged” my husband to follow suit. This is the second (or third?) year running that he’s kept up the tradition.

And oh—the card he gave me yesterday is priceless. Here’s the front cover. I LOVE the cowboy boots in the Mustang!

When you open it (don’t you just love these musical cards?) you hear Tim McGraw singing this. (Click on “this” for a great music video.)
My husband has come a long way from his lifelong exclusive love of rock and roll to a fairly tolerant appreciation of country music, which is, of course, my love.

If all this mushy stuff is making you think, “Oh, no—she isn’t just writing a sappy memoir full of happy events that no one else cares about, is she?”

Not to worry. I’m only up to 1970 (The Prologue and Chapters 1-4 cover the 50s and 60s) but every chapter is going to be full of details that keep bubbling up from those wells Beth Ann has me tapping—remembering, desiring, and fearing—hugely important emotions to be in touch with as I continue the work at hand. Dressing the Part: What I Wore for Love will be more than a fashion or political statement of the turbulent decades that are unfolding between its covers. It will be a peak inside the world of a wounded little girl’s life-long struggle to dress the part—the parts—that would be cast for me by others… and later, the parts that I would choose for myself.

Today I choose these parts: I choose to be wife to my husband, mother to my children, Godmother to my Godchildren, friend to those gracious and forgiving enough to have me, and writer of icons, essays, and books. So as I sit working on that fifth chapter (with a midnight deadline to have a draft emailed to my writing group in Oxford for our next meeting!) I’m wearing the third pair of slacks I tried on from my closet today, because the first two made me feel fat, like slacks will do when they are too tight. I can’t work if I don’t feel good about my clothes. But I’m hoping that by the time all eighteen chapters are written, I’ll be healed. Or at least further along the path. At the same time, I’m trying to remember the words of Flannery O’Connor that I chose for the top of my blog:

“Don’t think I write for purgation. I write because I write well…. You have got to learn to paint with words.”

Yes, I lived it, but now I’ve got to, as Scott said last weekend “get up above it and spin a good yarn”…. My task is to “break the experiential shorthand, go back to those moments, and choose words that are true.”

With God as my helper, here I go.

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